A Balancing Act

A sneak-peak at some of my life goals:

My yoga studio/bedroom

-Achieve Enlightenment and sustained happiness

-Play with a monkey (CHECK!)

-Sustain a healthy lifestyle to increase chances of living to be 120 years old

-Travel to the Galapagos Islands and other interesting places (partial Check!)

-Make and maintain good friendships

-Have a beautiful and loving family with children

-Ride an elephant


Now I know very few people reading this blog have the same or even similar quirky life goals as me, but we all have goals and they are all for the same basic reason, that is to create happiness for oneself. Being in Ecuador definitely makes attaining some of these goals easy (like playing with a monkey), but it makes others a bit rough at times.

Meditating on a bus in the Amazon

I believe in a balanced life of moderation, which is not exactly the study abroad Ecuadorian way, so I have watched friends struggle because of the imbalance. As much as we love the super cheap eight hour bus rides that take us to unbelievably cool destinations and “experiences of a life time,” the fact is, the pounding air condition, holding heavy and awkward luggage on our lap, and lumpy seats hardly allow us to achieve the recommended eight hours of sleep that our twenty-year-old bodies should be receiving. And of course the 2 am trips to salsa bars and discotheques in the Plaza Foch doesn’t help much either.  While it is extremely nice of our host families to prepare all our delicious meals, overloading on white rice, potatoes, and red meat has made it difficult to get our daily recommendation of vitamins and nutrients.  Finding a centered, holistic, and healthy lifestyle has been a challenge, but one that I have welcomed with open arms and I encourage anyone else studying abroad in the future to also pursue. Plus, if we can find equilibrium thousands of miles away from home, in place where we are being tested both physically and mentally every day, then I’m sure we will be able to find it when we are back in our comfort zone.

So how have I attempted to achieve this peace–of-mind in crazy Ecuador? Well, for me, it has required doing many of my twice-daily 20-minute meditations on buses, boats, planes, beaches, at IES, and even in restaurants. My yoga practice, once held in my front yard listening to a cascading fountain, or in the modern and clean Equinox yoga studio has now become a 3×8 foot rectangle next to my bed listening to online instructional videos. Some mornings I have to get up at 6 am just to fit it in before classes. As for eating, I just try to remember to take daily vitamins.

Meditation on one of the many bus rides

The park I run at

A lot of the girls struggle to work out in Quito, so I am lucky that I live across the street from a big park. I can go for runs whenever I have a free hour rather than just sitting on the computer. Some of the guys have joined gyms, use the local college gym, or have embraced pick-up sports at the park in order to work out here. As a non-drinker, I also have the advantage of being able to rise at 8 am feeling good after a night at the clubs in order to get in my workout.

I decided to take salsa classes while here– and one should never underestimate the workout of shaking ones hips! Once in a while, I opt-out of a night out in order to re-center after a hectic weekend or school week, which has proven to be helpful. I have managed to finish reading five extra books while I am here because I carry a book with me most of the time and there are a lot of 20-minute intervals of downtime. I am pleased with my practice of a healthy lifestyle, yet I have also skipped a few days of my routine and had days where I still feel a little stress because so much is going on. My suggestion: don’t let a few missed days or even weeks discourage you.  I am absolutely certain that my attempt at a healthy lifestyle has enhanced my study abroad experience. Maybe you’re thinking all this is not for you, which is obviously your personal choice, but for those of you who will be studying abroad and trying experience everything possible without stressing out or hurting yourself, it is definitely possible and a challenge worth attempting.

All in all, Ecuador has pushed my limits and always gives me something exciting and hilarious to enjoy. But, for my health and well-being, that’s something for which I have had to actively search. Let me I assure you, however, that with a little effort, balance can definitely be found.